The work on this project is a response to increasing geological and human constraints during underground operations. Implementation and multi-stage tests lasted almost a year and involved experts from FAMUR, FAMUR Institute, Elgór+Hansen and Elsta Elektronika. This is how an integrated system for automatic control of the FAMUR longwall system was created.

It was the first project of this type carried out with full resources of companies from the FAMUR Group with the help of experts of Elsta Elektronika in Wieliczka. Its aim was to implement and test an integrated system of automatic control of the longwall system, and thus to achieve maximum automation of the longwall mining process under specified conditions. The activities carried out were a response to the expectations of customers around the world.

Reliable and dependable communication between the systems in a mining complex ensures the mutual reliability of equipment operation. It also improves safety by enabling, if necessary, to withdraw operators from the zone of special mining and geological hazard. Depending on the current conditions in the mine, it is possible to apply different levels of automation - from the cycle of reinstallation (lowering, advancing, extending) of a single powered roof support unit to the conveyor, through reinstallation of the group of powered roof support units and advancing  the conveyor following the mining machine, up to automation of the operation of the shearer slotting in the face (cuting). 

How does it work?

The heart of the system is a gateway computer located near the face. It receives data from the mining machine, the electro-hydraulic control system of the powered roof support, the armoured face conveyor, the intelligent video cameras and, optionally, from the methane emission control system. For the purposes of the project, an innovative data acquisition and archiving system was developed and applied, using modern IT technologies such as MQTT data bus and MongoDB and InfluxDB databases.

Remote monitoring of the longwall system operation is made possible by the event-oriented intelligent application for visualisation and control of the mining process. The operator has an overview of the basic process parameters and is informed by the system about potential hazards to the longwall operators and production disturbances. An important function in the system is provided video by cameras that enable detecting the presence of people in the monitored area. Through the use of hardware support for artificial intelligence mechanisms, the video cameras themselves find the human and notify the master longwall control system. The artificial intelligence algorithms applied can be trained and adapted to different observation sources, such as the clothing of the mine workers where the system is working.

Tests on the surface

The project was initiated in October 2019 and was preceded by design work. The implementation of the machines into operation and testing of the system lasted until autumn 2020 and was carried out on the premises of the FAMUR machine park.

The tests carried out on the surface have not only given us the opportunity to avoid many of the risks associated with commissioning of the longwall system in complex operating conditions. It was also an opportunity to test over a dozen of FAMUR Institute's automation and communication projects and solutions, the implementation of which would not have been possible without conducting tests on the surface. Gained knowledge, competence and experience will allow FAMUR to strengthen its position on the Polish market, and in the long run to gain competitive advantage abroad.

The experimental automated longwall system has already been awarded in the Mining Success of the Year 2020 competition in the "Innovation" category. Currently the system created by FAMUR and Elsta Elektronika is of interest to potential customers.